Fundraiser for the York Street Project

I am an Educational Consultant with Discovery Toys.  I have been an Occupational Therapist for many years, concentrating on Early Intervention in Jersey City for the past 20 years.   I recently joined Discovery Toys so that I could use the toys for my work and offer them to the community.

I am thrilled to offer such great developmental toys for families to provide their children with quality toys that will encourage the children’s development.   Having toys that are fun motivates the children to keep playing with them hour after hour.  Many of the toys have multiple features to them, so the toys grow with the child, and siblings of different ages can play with them together.  The older child will learn along with the younger child.

Fun and enjoyment create a firm foundation for good mental health.   Playing with Discovery Toys alone, or with friends, siblings  parents, teachers and other caregivers can significantly help to create an environment of positive productive fun for a child.  They not only learn the skills or knowledge, but they build self esteem, self determination and associate learning with enjoyment.

I am proud to offer Discovery Toys because they fulfill my criteria of being durable, fun, flexible and they encourage children to explore and challenge themselves.


Right now I am doing a fundraiser for the York Street Project. The York Street Project takes on the highly-visible factors of Education, Housing and Childcare that block women from creating self-fulfilled, self-sufficient lives. At the same time they also take on the less visible factors, healing the hidden damages that the cycle perpetuates. Working with these brave women, the York Street Project helps them take on unlearning the lessons of hopelessness and helplessness, restoring destroyed self-esteem, and addressing the insidious developmental delays in their children. You can learn more here:


I am working on getting educational toys for the daycare classrooms and residential playrooms at the York Street Project. Anyone can buy a toy for the York Street Project between now and 1/31 by using this link: You can also buy toys for yourself and have it delivered to your home. If you use the link, a portion of the proceeds will go to the York Street Project.
I can be reached at 201 762 4TOY (869) or [email protected]dt york street projectdt york street project

Electronic Media



As an occupational therapist, I am very aware of the importance of movement to a child’s development.  Movement, and manipulating the environment, are how a very young child begins their learning process.  A baby laying on their back will occasionally reach up and move their arms.  If you hang a toy over their head, they will turn their head towards it.  As they flail their arms about, they will happen to hit the toy and they will come to connect in their mind that if they move their arm near the toy, the toy will move.  This is the beginning of fine and gross motor development and eye hand coordination.  As they bat at the toy, if they are laying on the floor, they will topple over to one side and beginning the process of learning to roll.  An older child learns about their body and the world around them by manipulating blocks with the control needed to stack them.  Children need lots of running, jumping and climbing experiences to help their nervous systems mature, for them to learn about their body boundaries and regulate their ability to focus.  If you pair this with imaginative play, whether it is super hero play, pretend shopping or cooking or caregiving, you find that children’s active play is a powerhouse for encouraging their development.


Then in comes the big bad media!  I’m sure you’ve heard about the dangers of children watching too much TV, or playing computer games or using the phone.  These types of activities are sedentary and do not encourage movement or manipulating the environment that all children need.  But they are fun and many children love them.  I am always amazed at the skills very young children have that enable them to work phones and computers on their own!  So there are a lot of benefits to these media that are  a major part of our lives.


It is important for children to have joy in their lives.  They need to like what they are doing in the moment and have lots of fun things to look forward to.  Computer games and youtube and other media seem to be quite enjoyable to many kids.  Since enjoyment is important I wouldn’t want to ban these items or make arbitrary limits to their use.  Exploring the internet and playing games DOES expose children to a lot of things.  They can watch videos of places you could not go to visit, they can listen to so many songs that you could never buy them all.  Many computer games provide experiences for children to learn visual and auditory discrimination, visual tracking, problem solving, as well as academic skills.


I know a young child who likes to listen to music videos on youtube and he dances along with them. Other children watch kid’s show on TV and dance along with the characters.  You could have children sit on exercise balls while they watch and play.  When my children were small, we had swings in front to the TV so they could swing while they watched.  So watching and playing media does not necessarily mean that the person is being sedentary.  If your child is open to suggestions on moving while using media, you could incorporate these ideas and come up with some of your own.


You could also come up with other things to do with your children that are more fun for them than media and involve manipulating the environment and moving around.  Going to a park or other outdoor activity and throwing and kicking a ball  is great if your child would want to do that.  There are also toys and games you can play with.   Find art projects, science activities, outings – all kinds of activities that you can find that could be more fun than media, especially if your child is “zoning out” on it.


Also, pay attention to your own use of these medias.  If a child sees their parent constantly checking their phone or working on the computer, they will think that is the way to behave.  If a child is indeed overusing media, then it may be time to work harder at connecting with them.  There are lots of opportunities for a parent to play with their child or watch shows with them.  If a child seems like they are too sedentary, then the parent or other caregiver can get moving with them.  If a child seems bored, the parent or other caregiver can interact with them.  Rather than taking away a game or phone, engage your child with you.


If you think your child is spending too much time with electronic devices, think about why you feel that way.  If they are bored, then help them find more fun, preferably active things to do.  If you think they are getting disconnected with “real life” then engage with them yourself – either by being with them and enjoying the electronic device, or doing some other activity with them.  If you feel that the learning and experiences that electronic devices provide is somehow less than other kinds of experiences, try to pay attention with an open mind to your child while they interact with the electronic device.  There may be more learning going on than you first think.  It is good to be aware of the importance of movement and manipulating the environment.  Use this awareness to enrich your child’s life, rather than taking away some beloved electronics that you think is limiting them.

Linda Velwest is an occupational therapist.  she also teaches autism movement therapy classes and sells Discovery Toys as an educational consultant.

Keeping active in the cold

child playing


Movement and exercise is important for everyone, but especially for young, developing kids.  As children’s nervous systems are maturing, they need movement to help them make sense of the world.  Children sometimes can improve their concentration and performance in school when they have movement activities interspersed throughout the day.  Active movement help children to know their physical boundaries and can help them improve their general health.  Our lives are getting more and more sedentary, especially with all the fun activities we can do with computers and all the great videos and shows for children.  It may be especially hard to find movement opportunities for our children now that the weather is getting colder.  Here are some ideas to incorporate movement activities indoors.


A mini trampoline designed for indoor use with children can  be used, especially if you have little space.  Exercise balls like you’d have for pilates can be fun for kids as well.  If you have more space, ride on toys and scooter boards can be used indoors.  Mattresses on the floor can be used for jumping on as well.  All of this equipment would require close adult supervision, of course.  To make it even better, join in on the fun with your kids sometimes!  Wrestling with a careful adult or older child involves lots of fun movement.  You can put tape on the floor (painter’s tape leaves little, if any, residue) and create lines to walk on, or jump across.  You can make shapes with the tape and have the children jump between circles, square, triangles, etc.  You could also make parallel lines with the tape and call it a river so the kids can climb into a box and row down the river.  Let your imagination soar!


Playing in the snow can be fun for kids of all ages!  You might head for indoor play places such as Gymboree or My Gym.  Other indoor attractions such as Liberty Science Center, the New Jersey Children’s Museum and indoor water parks can also encourage movement.


You can put on some lively music and dance.  Stop the music and play freeze dance.  Or you can make up dance moves and have everyone imitate each other’s moves.  You can toss a balloon in the air, or use rackets or paddles to hit it around.  You can take a sheet and play parachute and put the balloons in the parachute.  A lot of young kids like to have an adult hold onto either end of the sheet and have the child sit in the middle while the adults swing them back and forth.  You can play bean bag toss and have bins or garbage cans to throw the bean bags in.  Or you can crumble up newspapers and throw them around, throw them at targets, or throw them into bins.  You can play charades.  You can also walk like different animals – crab walk, jump like a frog, walk like an elephant – whatever!


These are ideas to get you started.  There are a lot of things you can do with children to get them moving inside.  If you have special equipment, you can use it.  But you can also just use your imagination and things you have around the house.  Have fun with it!


Linda Velwest is a pediatric occupational therapist working with early intervention. She also teaches Autism Movement Therapy classes


Sensing Our World


child playing


Everyone is familiar with the five senses; sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. As an occupational therapist, I frequently work with two other senses: proprioceptive and the vestibular sense. The proprioceptive sense is located in the joints, muscles and tendons of the body and is concerned with the relative movement of these body parts as well as the relative effort needed to make these movements. The vestibular sense is concerned with balance and the body’s orientation to the rest of the world.

All these senses are important for us to get information about our bodies and the world so that we can do the activities we need. Sometimes we can experience these senses too much or too little. This can interfere with function, and often does with young children with sensory issues. Sometimes this over or under sensitivity can go away on its own. Many times the child is instinctively attracted to activities that will normalize their senses. Sometimes the child gets caught in a loop of unhelpful behaviors that seems to them in the moment to calm them down, but actually are not helpful at all. Sometimes we can help the child to normalize their senses.

The first thing is to make the child comfortable and safe. If they are too sensitive, help them to block unwanted stimulation. If their eyes are oversensitive, maybe tinted glasses will help. If their ears are oversensitive noise blocking headphones can help. Keep their foods tasting bland if their taste is oversensitive and use no fragrance soap and avoid perfumes if their smell is oversensitive. If a child is oversensitive to touch, they may need the labels cut out of their clothing and special socks to prevent the sock seams to rub against them. If they are less sensitive, or hyposensitive, you need to make sure that they don’t hurt themselves accidentally.

An oversensitive proprioceptive system could show up as a clumsy child who may hit or use too much force in drawing. An under sensitive proprioceptive system shows up as a child who always needs movement – jumping, crashing into things, hugging. An oversensitive vestibular system shows up as a child who seems afraid to move, especially when their eyes are closed. An under sensitive vestibular system may make a child seem to crave movement, just like an undersensitive proprioceptive system. The movements that are craved would be more like spinning and sliding.

An occupational therapist can offer suggestions of things parents can do to help normalize their children’s sensory systems. Sometimes a desensitization program can be effective in helping the child become less sensitive more quickly. More intense stimulation can help a hyposensitive child become more sensitive, Sometimes kids are hypo sensitive at some times and hyper sensitive at other times. Proprioceptive activities are often normalizing activities – they help to both calm the oversensitive and stimulate the undersensitive. Here is a list of common proprioceptive activities parents can do with children:

Jump on a trampoline or mattress on the floor, Carry heavy objects or a heavy backpack (not more than 10% of the child’s weight), Push chairs or toy boxes across the floor, eat chewy foods, suck yogurt or applesauce through a straw, crab walking, swimming. An Occupational Therapist can help come up with more specific activities for your child and help you figure out your child’s “sensory profile”.

Linda Velwest is a pediatric occupational therapist working with early intervention. She also teaches Autism Movement Therapy classes

Holiday fun for all

Holiday fun for all
Holiday fun for all

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and then the hectic holiday season begins for many families.  Are there memories you have of this time when you were little?  You may want to recreate these memories in your new family.  Or you may want to begin some new traditions of your own.  The important thing to emphasize is that everyone enjoy themselves.  It is easy to forget to pay attention to your child’s needs during this busy time. This time of year can bring a lot of stress for people, but with some thought and planning, you can give your child and family memories to cherish.  Children, especially young children, may need some extra attention and assistance at this time of year to help them cope with all the activities and allow them (and you!) to enjoy the things you do.


Does this time of year involve more time than usual getting together with family and friends?  This could disrupt your child’s routine and cause them to be cranky.  Talk to them about the plans for the day and for the next few days several times so they have some preparation for the change in routine.  Just because you tell them once doesn’t mean they will remember!!  Make sure you know your child’s signs that they are reaching their limit and try to leave a party before they get past the point of no return and have a tantrum or a meltdown.  If you are hosting a party, try to have a quiet place where they can go if they get overwhelmed.  If you are busy being a host, you may want to designate someone to take care of them while you are concentrating on your guests.  Or you could hire a babysitter.  If your child does not want to be hugged or kissed by well meaning adults, honor that feeling.  You can just say  something like “My child isn’t comfortable with a hug right now, but you can wave and smile and play with them.  Maybe they will feel more comfortable hugging you later.”


Mealtimes are often different than usual for holiday dinners.  This could leave the child too hungry and cause them to be unhappy or have a meltdown.  Make sure you bring healthy snacks for them if they need food.  And also keep offering them water.  If you think your child will have trouble sitting at the table for an extended family dinner, be prepared to excuse them early and have someone (maybe you, maybe someone else)  play with them.  Remember to talk to them about the expectations of the activity beforehand and work with them on a plan B if the expectations are too high.  Also, think about phones and other electronic accessories.  No one likes it when people (adults OR children) spend all their time on their phone when at a gathering.  But if an electronic device helps you child stay quiet and contented while you get much needed time with friends and family, having that device might be a win-win situation.


Be careful about scheduling too much activity.  Every party invitation does not have to be accepted if it causes too much stress.  Or maybe go and stay for a short time.  It’s important for the kids not to get overloaded by too much stimulation and change, causing them to be upset and cranky and unable to calm themselves.  Baking cookies is a common fun activity for this time of year, but maybe you want to make the cookies simple to make and simple to decorate. A complicated recipe means that you do all the work and they are not involved.  If it is a simple recipe, they can feel more involved in the process.  Maybe make 1 dozen cookies with the kids, instead of 12 dozen!  Making simple presents or cards can be a fun activity as well, but keep it simple and don’t ask them to do too many at one time.


This is the time of year many families want to create fond memories and enduring traditions.  Just don’t over do it with children, especially young children.  You will have plenty of time for elaborate, grown up holiday activities when they are grown.  And there is no need to do every fun thing that is available.  It’s important to be well rested so you can actually enjoy the things you do.
Have a great holiday season!  Have fun and be kind.  



Linda Velwest is an early intervention occupational therapist.  She is currently teaching Autism Movement Therapy classes and is available for private consultations.